PALESTINE -- They sit in file cabinets and boxes in the Sheriff's Office and the Palestine Police Department. Files, filled with information concerning the unsolved murders committed in Anderson County. Although they remain a mystery, the files do not collect dust, instead, investigators from the PD and Sheriff's office alike continue to search for justice for those who lost their lives in such violent acts.
"It's just an unfortunate part of this business that sometimes, a crime happens where there's no witnesses and there's no ability to find them," Sheriff Greg Taylor of the Anderson County Sheriff's Office said. "The crooks are cold hearted enough, and slick enough and shrewd enough to never give themselves away. Serial killers get away with murder sometimes for years and years before they're ever caught. It's just a sad reality."
After discussions with both the ACSO and the Palestine Police department, there are 10 unsolved cases that plague these two law offices of Anderson County, a relatively small number compared to the amount of cold cases in the state of Texas alone.
"There's thousands of unsolved murders in the state of Texas since 1992," Taylor said. "It's sad but it's a reality that all counties, just about every county, in the state has some cases."
The Palestine PD, currently has five unsolved cases since 1987 that are continually studied and investigated.
"On all these cases, the cases have never closed," Lt. James Muniz of the Palestine Police Department said. "You might have some time that goes by that you don't physically work on the case, but from time to time you review all these cases."
The Palestine PD's oldest case concerns the death of Ethel Baggett, an 82-year-old woman from Palestine, whose body was found inside her home on the 2700 block of North Jackson Street. According to Muniz, Bagget died as a result of trauma to the body in 1987. Muniz said that an extensive case followed the death of Bagget, but no suspects were ever arrested, leaving the case as open and active to this time.
Muniz described the constant review of the cases, pointing out the box that held Bagget's case in it, as he is the investigator in the case.
"I know where it is all the time," Muniz said. "It's been awhile since we've worked on it, but if anybody comes up and says 'hey what can you tell us about this' well I've got the case right here. We don't have to hunt for it."
The oldest case for the ACSO, Taylor said, involved 12-year-old Brandy Thompson, who disappeared from a friend's house in April of 1992. After an extensive search for the child, including multiple search ads that ran in the Herald-Press at the time, Thompson's body was found in a residential community called Happy Valley Lane.
"It was really sad, and it affected a lot of the officers," Taylor said. "I have one or two officers that are back here from the time that it happened and it affected them pretty drastically."
Though investigations were performed and speculations made, there was never enough evidence to decisively arrest a suspect.
"The case is still open," Taylor said. "We have our suspects. We have looked into this case since then, just a few years ago we looked into it some more. All these cold cases we try to refresh ourselves on from time to time, look at them again, and see if there's anything new, any new information. Unfortunately, I can only speculate as to who."
The second case that the ACSO faced was the death of William Holiday, 46, in 1996, when Taylor was starting as a deputy.
Taylor said he was the responding deputy to a call of a man who had been found lying on his back and appeared to have several gunshot wounds off of 287 South near CR 171. Not only was this case investigated by the ACSO, but it was also brought to the attention of the Texas Rangers and the District Attorney's office. The investigation led authorities to Houston where Holiday was last seen. Holiday, who was reported as a truck driver, had left his vehicle in a truck stop in Houston and made his way to Anderson County.
"They were never able to quite piece together how he got up here, who brought him up here, why they shot him and dumped him on the side of the road way up here when he was in Houston to begin with," Taylor said. "That one's still open, and it's a mystery. Lots of speculation, but nothing concrete."
It was nearly five years after the confusing case of Holiday before the ACSO faced it's next open case. In what Taylor described as haunting, the county saw the death of 19-year-old Palestine High School student Joshua Seales, who was found in the trunk of a car on Sept. 1, 2001.
"When we opened the trunk, his body was inside the trunk and he was burned very badly too," Taylor said. "The autopsy proved that he died of homicidal violence as well."
Seales had last been seen running errands with another man. According to the Wanted flier created by the ACSO: "witnesses stated that it appeared that Seals may have been followed by unknown subjects." A forensic artist released a drawing of the man believed to have been accompanying Seales before his death, but have never been able to identify him.
"This case remains open," Taylor said. "We do ask frequently, with our local folks that come in and out of here, about this case. We believe that there's one or two that come in here that do know about it, but they just won't talk."
Taylor said he believes this to be a case where Seales was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Currently, CrimesStoppers is offering a $5,000 for the arrest and conviction those responsible for the death of Seales.
"They all haunt us, but this one haunts us a lot, a 19-year-old kid lost his life and we're unable to solve it."
After nearly 17 years, Palestine PD faced it's next cold case. In February 20, 2004, officers responded to a call concerning a deceased person.
Muniz said that police discovered the body of 79-year-old Rosemary Sarosdy at her residence on the 1600 block of Court Drive. She died of trauma to the body. According to Muniz, details concerning the case were not revealed as a precaution to hindering any further investigations.
Sometimes even though law enforcement believe to have their suspects, the cases remain cold, such as in the case of 51-year-old Melton Paris's murder. Taylor said that the ACSO saw Paris's case in 2007, when the victim was found shot to death in his home in Tennessee Colony.
"The Sheriff's Office and the District Attorneys office investigated that case, and it's still open," Taylor said. "This is one where we believe who shot this individual, and that individual is now dead. We will never be able to concretely prove it. We're confident, I'm confident of who killed this man, but he's dead now and we'll probably never know for sure."
In 2008, the ACSO saw their final cold case and one that could only be described as grizzly.
"This one's really tough," Taylor said while handing out a flyer for information regarding the death of Betty Waters. Waters, an 81 year old woman, was found dead laying in her living room not far from her front door, with a neck wound from where it had been cut.
"We can speculate all day long," Taylor said. "We interviewed, oh my gosh, we interviewed so many people."
Taylor said that there had been multiple people around the area due from a tree trimming crew and that every single worker was interviewed, and yet all that came about was a report of an old white vehicle leaving the area.
"This one's really tragic, we can only speculate what happened to her," Taylor said.
There is a $10,000 reward for any information regarding the Waters case.
"For any of these cases, we're asking any one that has any information they can call CrimeStoppers and possibly receive an award," Taylor said. "We'd certainly would welcome any tips on any of these cases. They're all heartbreaking in their own way. No one deserves to die without justice."
It was in the same year that the Palestine PD responded to a call of a discovered body. Ricardo Loaeza, 29 of Palestine was found dead in a wooded area in the 1600 block of Eilenstein Street by a passerby who then called in anonymously with information.
Muniz said that Loaeza was determined to have died from trauma to the body. During the investigation, several persons of interest were developed, however nothing became of the suspicions and no suspects were apprehended. Currently, Muniz is leading the investigation.
Loaeza's unsolved murder was followed in 2009 by Vergie Spurlock, a 66-year-old Palestine man who was found killed in his residence at the 700 block of Head Street. His body had been discovered after a visitor came by and could not get an answer at the door. The visitor looked through the window and saw Spurlock on the floor. Muniz said that an "extensive investigation was conducted and several suspects were developed in the case, however the case remains open and active."
Currently, Sgt. Justin Willoughby along with his team are working on the case.
The final case for the Palestine Police Department, and the most recent in the area was from Oct. 23 2013 when John Fereles, 82, of Palestine, was found dead inside his residence on the 100 block of Longhorn Drive. He was discovered after a family member requested that the PD check on his welfare. Reports show that Fereles died from trauma to the body, and the investigation brought several persons of interest, but no arrests were made.
Currently, detective David Kassaw is the lead detective for this case.
"All homicides in which an arrest ways not made are still considered as an open case," Muniz said. "The cases will never be closed until a suspect has been brought to justice... The Palestine Police Department will continue to work these cases in order to give closure to the families of the victims and to the community."
According to Taylor, when a murder is committed, law enforcement has roughly 72 hours before the trail goes cold. During that time, investigators canvass the area, searching for any clues they can get from reliving the victim's life.
"Usually, you run across somebody that gives you an indication," Taylor said. "You find something that says, 'ah that one did it, this is the motive,' but in these we didn't."
Though Anderson County has only had a handful of unsolved cases, they are each continually watched and thought about by all of the officers involved.
"As a law enforcement officer, open homicides always haunt us," Taylor said. "We talk about these cases and we look at these cases again and we put them all out on the table."